In 2007, Lighthouse Trails wrote a book review on a book titled Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Today, thirteen years later, we are seeing the “fruit” of the emergent church (that, incidentally, was spawned by leaders like Rick Warren, Bob Buford, and Bill Hybels as is documented in Faith Undone by Roger Oakland). The so-called fruit of this well-planned, well-financed emergent manifesto has ripened within the church exalting corrupt and anti-biblical ideologies such as a social justice-gospel, spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality), interspirituality, homosexual and transgender lifestyle acceptance, communistic socialism, evolution, convoluted eschatology (which rejects Bible prophecy and Christ’s return), panentheism, and more recently, as seen in the SBC, critical race theory—all of which are anything but a theology of hope. On the contrary, this emergent manifesto has created despair, confusion, and an exit from biblical faith by countless young people.
At the Lighthouse Trails office, we hear from so many anguished parents and grandparents who are trying to figure out why their now-grown children and grandchildren have turned away from the biblical faith of their youth to an unrecognizable belief system. We are convinced that many many of these young people were drawn into an emergent view via Christian colleges, youth groups, mission societies, books, and organizations. Below is a repost of our 2007 article, which describes this manifesto of doubt over faith.
“Emergent Manifesto: Emerging Church Coming Out of the Closet”
Emergent Manifesto of Hope is the new release from Emersion, a publishing partnership between Baker Books and Emergent Village. The book, edited and compiled by emergent leaders Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt, is a collection of essays by various emerging church leaders. Pagitt says the book “provides a rare glimpse inside the emerging church.” This “rare glimpse” actually lays out the agenda of the movement, and in essence Emergent Manifesto is the emerging church’s coming out of the closet tribute.
The back cover of Emergent Manifesto describes it as a “front-row” look at this “influential international movement” and promises readers that they will come away with “a deeper understanding of the hopeful imagination that drives the emerging church.” Readers are also told that they will “appreciate the beauty of a conversation that is continually being formed.” However, the book fails to deliver any “beauty.”
A more accurate title for this book would be Emergent Manifesto of False Hope, and a subtitle (albeit a lengthy one) that would describe it perfectly would go something like this:
The Kingdom of God is already here on earth, includes all people, all faiths, and in fact is in all people and all of creation and can be felt or realized through mysticism which connects everything together as ONE.
This new collective spirituality leads people into a socialistic community where rituals, practices, and social justice become a means of salvation, but not the salvation you think of in a personal sense of being born-again through Jesus Christ. This is a collective salvation 1 that includes whole cultures and communities who follow the way of someone referred to as Jesus.
Tony Jones lays the ground work for the book by referring to the “highest good” (for humanity) and explains that when Emergent began (in 1998) the group was “engaging in some sort of ‘socially established cooperative human activity’”(p. 14). “Cooperative” is a theme that runs through the book. Doug Pagitt says Emergent is a “call to friendship … with the world” and this “friendship” is a “dangerous leap” in which many ways have been created to connect (p. 19). Throughout the book, these ways to connect become quite obvious. While often called other terms in the book, the concepts behind them are interspirituality (all religions coming together), panentheism (God is in all creation), universalism (all are saved), and mysticism (the means by which this connecting takes place).
In this “sense of interconnection,” the book states:
[R]enewed popularity of the “kingdom” language is related to the emerging global narrative of the deep ecology movement – a consciousness and awareness that everything matters and is somehow interdependent (p. 27).
Emergent leader (and New Age sympathizer), Leonard Sweet (in his book Quantum Spirituality) calls this the Theory of Everything. This theory not only says that all creation is connected but that it is all inhabited with Divinity (God).
The Manifesto describes “themes” of “integrative theology” as: Interest in monastic practices, contemplative and bodily spiritual formation disciplines, celebrating earth, humanity, cultures, and the sensuous (p. 28). In a chapter titled “Meeting Jesus at Bars” the Manifesto favorably includes visiting monasteries, practicing yoga, engaging in silent retreats, and chanting with monks (p. 38). One writer in the book has this to say:
I am a Christian today because of a Hindu meditation master. She taught me some things that Christians had not. She taught me to meditate, to sit in silence and openness in the presence of God…. I believe that all people are children of God. (p.45)
While the book does list praying and reading Scripture as one of the practices to engage in, it offers a disclaimer that this is not what is most spiritually nourishing but rather “our relationship with others give us the most insight into who God is and where God is leading us” (p. 38). And this is really the essence of the book. Harmless, some may say. No, anything but. The Emergent Manifesto belittles personal, one-on-one relationship with the Lord and insists it is a collective salvation that really matters. The goal of this cooperative movement is to participate in “the healing of our world” and to “collaborate with our Maker in the fulfillment of God’s reign on Earth” (p. 30).
The Manifesto makes clear that followers of this new, collective religion should not be concerned about saving “people from the jaws of hell,” but should rather be “motivated … to be in relationship with people who in many ways are different” (p. 35). The focus should not be on conversion as much as “cultivation of relationships.” The lofty language used in the Manifesto, reminiscent of legal or medical language, makes the writers seem highly intellectual but the reading difficult to comprehend. However, while the language in the book is often obscure and metaphorical, the ideologies are evident. To describe interspirituality, the book says:
If the Emergent conversation is to have a “next chapter,” it will need to learn from other sketches outside of Western Christendom (p. 68). [Translation: incorporate the belief systems of other religions.]
Or this one:
[T]he environment that Emergent seeks to create – a studio for sketching, a place of freedom and divergence … [Emergent Village] is more committed to equipping any and all for the process of emergence (p. 70).
Manifesto talks significantly about those who refuse to change and bend with this “process of emergence.” Pagitt states:
While immovability may be a fine role for religion, it may not serve the story of God’s action in the world very well … I don’t think it is possible to tell the story of faith from the posture of sameness and stability …. Ours is a story of the expanding life of God generating new creation … of collective faith. (pp. 75-76)
When Pagitt speaks of “expanding life of God” and “new creation,” he means that we cannot contain truth or reality within the confines of the written Word of God but that truth is always changing and being created.
Universalism is a pronounced theme in the book as well. Manifesto calls salvation “a collective experience.” A Manifesto poem illustrates this:
Not only soul, whole body!
Not only whole body, all of the faithful community!
Not only all of the faithful community, all of humanity!
Not only all of humanity, all of God’s creation! (pp. 82-83)
And panentheism (God is in all) is exhibited through statements like the following, which talks about the “holiness of humanity”:
[W]e are agents for change in the world (salvation, redemption, and reconciliation … it is a celebration of the holiness of humanity in which the fullness of God was pleased to dwell … it is our holy fleshiness. (p. 88)
What do the emerging church leaders hope to accomplish? Well, they tell us. They want you … they want the church to join up with them. Listen to this explanation:
The existing church/emerging church matrix can dissolve into missional collaboration and generative friendship. (p. 107)
And hearing that, we must ask, Is that what Josh McDowell is doing by endorsing Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church,2 and is that what David Jeremiah is doing by consistently promoting Erwin McManus? Are Christian leaders helping to bring about this dream of the emerging church by dissolving into it? Unfortunately, the answer to that seems to be yes. But how can we as believers follow them into this dark abyss?
In regard to biblical descriptions of last days apostasy, how does the Manifesto relate? It doesn’t. In speaking of the days that the Book of Revelation describes, the Manifesto states:
[F]olks who hang around the emerging church tend to see goodness and light in God’s future, not darkness and gnashing of teeth … [some] take the view that we’re in a downward spiral, and when things “down here” become bad enough, Jesus will return in glory…. We’re caught in the tractor beam of redemption and re-creation, and there’s no sense fighting it, so we might as well cooperate. (p. 130)
There is another underlying theme that is permeating the pages of this book and many of the other emerging church books in print, including Dan Kimball’s. There is a continual hammering away and chiseling down of the image of Christians (the kind who take the Bible literally and stand by its authority). This effort to villainize Christians is reminiscent of Germany in the 30s when artists would draw distorted pictures of Jews with certain facial features making them look weird, and when rumors and stories would run amuck even suggesting that Jews would rape your daughters, so don’t trust them. This all-out effort to get society to hate and mistrust the Jews worked. It was a campaign, not based on fact, but based on a demonic kingdom that hates anything that has to do with Jesus Christ. In the Manifesto, Brian McLaren boils down the world’s evils to the fault of Western Christians and suggests that these resisting Christians might even become militant against people one day. (Hitler was able to persuade people that the Jews were a threat so they better take them out before the Jews got them.) McLaren states:
What are we in the so-called emerging churches seeking to emerge from? I asked myself. We are seeking to emerge from modern Western Christianity, from colonial Christianity, from Christianity as a “white man’s religion … into a faith of collaborative mission … It is immediately clear that this kind of emergence must lead to a convergence — in the West, across denominations and across current polarizations, a convergence of postconservatives and postliberals into what Hans Frei and Stanley Grenz termed a new “generous orthodoxy.” (p. 150)
[M]any will react and oppose this emergence, seeking to maintain the hegemony of the West … perhaps even seeking a revival of crusading Christendom. (151)
In Ray Yungen’s book, For Many Shall Come in My Name, he discusses this very thing and shows how New Age leaders have been framing a social mindset that will eventually become hostile to Bible-believing Christians. Yungen explains how it will all be justified as doing humanity a favor by getting rid of them, and when he quotes the words of New Ager Neale Donald Walsch as saying that God believes Hitler did the Jews a favor by killing them, it sends chills up the spine. And whether they realize what they are doing or not, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren and other emergent leaders are framing a similar mindset for people to climb into.
While it is sad to think about persecution that may be coming upon believers, it is even more tragic to realize how many unsaved people will never hear the Gospel because so many Christian leaders have given the emerging church a thumbs up. The publishers and editors at Baker Books should be ashamed of themselves for exalting such anti-Christ teachings or at the very least stop calling themselves a Christian publisher.
For those who are still skeptical about the Emergent Manifesto’s message, pick up a used copy sometime of Alice Bailey’s The Externalization of the Hierarchy, or Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance. And when you read those words by those “change agents,” see if you notice that the message is the same, just dressed in a different outfit called Emergent.
Emergent Manifesto does indeed “provide a rare glimpse,” but not one of hope. Rather it is a look into the near future of a world that is racing toward spiritual destruction through severe deception as the Bible predicts when it says that Satan will someday deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9).